Yet another milestone in tourism development has been reached, shortly after witnessing the record 750,000th tourist into the island.
An effort of Tourism Development Authority and Urban Development Authority has resulted in the much-awaited launch of the former Dutch Hospital of Colombo Fort as a ‘Shopping Precinct,’ which becomes the latest tourist attraction in the city.
The opening ceremony today, 2 December 2011, will be graced by Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa and Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
This property was initially taken over and developed by the Tourism authorities with a view to converting it into a tourist attraction while retaining its original Dutch architecture. Later, the Urban Development Authority under the direction of the Defence Secretary took expeditious steps to complete the renovation to make it a centre for tourists.
As per records, the hospital was built during the rule of the Dutch from 1656 to 1796. A Dutch map drawn in 1732 shows the hospital at its present site. However, the hospital had existed since 1681 according to a description by Christopher Schweitzer, a German national who was in Sri Lanka serving the Dutch from 1676 to 1682.
During the colonial era, the Dutch Hospital was established to cater to medical requirements of the staff of the Dutch East India Company. It was located close to the harbour as it was convenient to transport patients from ships.
During the renovation process of the building, special attention was paid not to change the original structure of the building, while it was modernised with state-of-the-art facilities. The ‘Shopping Precinct’ which consists of 12 stalls including a restaurant, jewellers and textile and handicraft stalls will be opened as a high end tourist centre.
This would be a unique centre, with its central location surrounded by city hotels, Dutch architecture that was retained to be witnessed by visitors into Sri Lanka and as a place to shop and dine, which contributes to the efforts of authorities to make Colombo a vibrant city as part of the tourism strategy developed under the guidance Minister Basil Rajapaksa.